Compilations / Mixes
Listeners who've been absorbing the recent string of Spectrum Spools releases likely will come to this outing by Robert Turman with a certain set of expectations. But Flux, a re-issue of the American composer's 1981 debut solo outing, features no heady synthesizer explorations or wildness of any kind—if anything, its placidity and sparse instrumental makeup are leagues removed from the high-energy blaze captured on the label's other offerings. By today's standards, the recording and production methods are certifiably lo-fi: recorded using a Tascam 3340 open-reel tape machine and issued on cassette, Flux now returns in a double-vinyl form with mastering done from the original c-60 cassette master. Updating hasn't done away with the omnipresent hiss that coats the six settings like so much dust, four of which extend beyond the ten-minute mark. Purposefully moving in the opposite direction of the noisy industrial work of kindred explorers, Turman focused on creating long-form minimalistic pieces using nothing more than kalimba, piano, drum machine, and tape loops as sound sources.
The ping of a bell tone recurs throughout the opening piece (all six are identified by number), a punctuation that accentuates the contrast between the brightness of the tone and the incessant percussive patterns burbling underneath. If the first and third settings exude a gamelan-like character (a gamelan choir can even be heard softly chanting during the third), the second and sixth are more reminiscent of Eno-styled ambient, given that their softly glimmering keyboard meander cultivates an air of stasis rather than forward motion. Wrapped in a thick cloud of hiss, the second setting is so quiet, in fact, it makes the project's basic production values all the more conspicuous.
A hint of classical minimalism is present (particularly during the fifth piano-driven piece), but it's more implied than overt: Turman's material generally doesn't evidence the mathematical rigour of Reich's Drumming, for example, though it's conceivable that, structurally, Flux might on paper reflect a pronounced degree of compositional logic and precision. But at the level of pure listening, Flux sounds like material that develops in the moment in accordance with its own natural logic. There's a homespun feel to the recording that's never more apparent than during the funeral dirge fourth setting where the pitter-patter of a simple drum machine beat helps keep two levels of slow-motion piano playing in sync. All things considered, it's a fascinating project that not only possesses some measure of historical significance in terms of the evolution of electronic music-making but also proves to be a charming, even restful listening experience on its own terms.